Tuesday, April 27, 2010


Today the dishes are piled in the sink. The same load of clean towels, messy and unfolded is in the laundry basket as it was yesterday. The mail and scribbled notes are piled on the kitchen counter. I am on the sofa, sitting in silence after reading another personalized, encouraging rejection.

I hear the dehumidifier’s rhythmic hum and wonder why I don’t have a simple “on” switch. Right now I want to bring physical order. I want to work hard. I’m still sitting here.

Birds chirp as they build their springtime nests outside the windows I thought about washing two weeks ago. Neighbors pass by with their dogs charging forward, living to please. I’m still sitting. My husband is in a meeting, working hard. My son is in school, working hard. Everyone I know is working hard. I am sitting.

Writing often re-opens a scab in my thoughts. I think “this time it won’t hurt,” but then it’s ripped off and leaves me raw again. I try to heal, but creativity is a silent addiction. I don’t want to be this way. Why can’t I have an “off” switch?

In writing, there are no absolutes. There are only interpretations. Being good isn’t enough. Being great only gets you so far. Being brilliant is necessary.

Brilliance is then flung out like a handful of pick-up-sticks. Maybe I’ll win the game this time. Maybe the beautiful, hand-carved sticks will land in a slush pile and never be touched again…

I reach for the laundry basket.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

An Imperfect Life

This morning I sent my fourth grader off to camp for three days and came home to find my otherwise perfect dog had pooped on the family room rug. Then, for the first time while feeding my two parakeets, one flew out of the cage, hit the living room window and died a few moments later. This was all before 8:00 am.

I have a good life. I say my prayers with true thanksgiving; I happily kiss my husband every night, and I am proud of the time I spend with my son and how I’m raising him. So why is it, in a matter of minutes I went from thinking about enjoying a few nights alone with my husband to contemplating the effects of death? It didn’t take long to hear the familiar voice in my head.

“Because this IS life, sometimes it’s good and sometimes it’s not. Life is learning, dealing, teaching, helping, working, and enjoying. Not all at the same time, not all everyday.”

I hear his voice in my head when I want to, and sometimes when I don’t want to, but need to. Some people call it the voice of reason, or one’s conscience. My sister Linda and I believe it’s our connection with source energy. Whatever you choose to believe it is, one thing remains the same.

Each one of us has an entire world wrapped up inside a skin-covered package. Each one of us is as important as the next. For years now I’ve made a habit of showing it in ways like the below:

I smile at the cashier working the drive-thru window, and I mean it when I say thank you. She could have a sick child or parent at home.

I let the guy driving way too fast pass me; he could have just gotten a call from the hospital with bad news. His plan is not to enrage me personally.

I respectfully hold the door open for older people even when they move slowly. I think about how fast the world must seem to them now, and realize I may be the only kind stranger they have seen in days.

I listen to children the same as adults. Their stories may not have experience behind them, but their feelings are just as deep as yours and mine.

While I kissed my ten-year-old goodbye this morning, I felt nervous that he’d be away for three days. A few minutes later I felt angry as I stepped in a pile of poop, then a few minutes after that, I felt sorrowful as I picked up my favorite bird for the last time and stroked his lifeless body.

Like I said before, I know I have a good life, and I realize bad things happen. Right now, I’m reminding myself that “good” does not mean, “perfect”.

I will be thankful for all the good things in my own imperfect life.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Confessions of a timid writer

Most writers I know crave alone time because when it gets down to it, we never have any…well physically maybe, but never mentally. Our heads are a sort of continuous cocktail party of very old friends and many new acquaintances that insist on dazzling us with their impressive back-stories.

Fellow writers totally know what I’m talking about. Non-writers have no idea and think I’m just a couple “ticks” away from being committed.

What really annoys me is when I’m reminded that real people like to go outside. Or that it’s not normal to sit in pajamas all day. Oh, the things I have to put up with. Don’t they know it’s a scientific fact that creative energy flows more freely in soft, pink, cotton pajamas? (Well, maybe not a proven fact yet, but I’m sure it could be.)

Years ago when I decided to make a true effort as a full time writer I felt very alone. It took a lot of courage to stand up and say:

“My name is Jane and I am an out of the closet writer.”

My husband and sister always knew and encouraged me. Yet I instantly felt overwhelmed by my complete lack of “top-secret-insider-knowledge” and incredibly brash for thinking I deserved to know.

Now, after years of reading and researching, I’m happy to say, I’ve found out the really important things aren’t actually “top-secret-insider-stuff”.

1) Believe in yourself. If you don’t think you can be a success, how will you convince respected agents and editors to?

2) Successful writers, editors, and agents like to help new writers who work hard, listen, and use their valuable advice.

3) The top writers, editors, and agents are passionate, caring and NEVER stop working hard.

4) Make sure your work is polished before submitting. It’s been said a million times before and once again here: you only get one shot at making a first impression.

With that said, it’s important to realize there aren’t many industries where you can jump in headfirst and find dozens of powerful people willing to dive in after you saying “Weeee!” But I found that’s exactly what happened when I threw my insecurities aside and signed up for an Editor’s Intensive at Writer’s Digest. I didn’t have anyone to go with so I put my big-girl pants on and went all by myself. Afterward, I took every bit of advice handed to me, used it and am still amazed at how valuable the weekend was.

Since I’m a writer of young adult books, I attended the SCBWI conference. On my own I may have thought about going, or dreamed about going, but it would have probably ended there. Yet with a prominent editor looking me in the eye at the WD editors intensive saying “You have to go”, I knew I couldn’t just think about it, I had to actually go. So, I put another pair of big-girl pants on and went to New York alone for five days. I’m 42 years old, I used to travel for work, and yet I was downright terrified of attending the SCBWI conference alone…crazy? More like too timid. The previously discussed “tick” was getting more defined in my mind.

Well, that weekend made it clear there was nothing to fear but much to celebrate. I walked away reminding myself to spend lots of time writing, (you have to start with lots of writing) and then spend lots of time rewriting. Ask all your questions at the right time aimed toward the right people, and really hear and follow the answers.

If you’ve never been one for writer’s groups, give it a try. Or if your experience was negative, try again, and don’t be afraid of on-line writers groups. Technology is not scary, in fact you HAVE to be technically active now, and once you start you’ll see how wonderful it is.

For on-line insight from some top-notch, well respected people in the industry, check out:







Please let me know how you’re doing or if you have any questions because I’m pretty sure that together, and with enough snacks, we can accomplish just about anything.

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